Entries Tagged 'County Commission' ↓

Where was City Councilor Huether last night?

I’m not the only one asking the question. Several public officials asked me if I had any insight :) Besides Mike, Commissioner Bender was the only one that was not present with the two boards. Jean had a conflict of interest because her husband’s company has an appeal pending with the solar farm land, or something like that, ironically something I warned the Commission about when they were considering her for the commission, but hey, what do I know, I’m just a cranky blogger.

The mayor often calls himself a city councilor, and he should be available for tie-break votes. So why was he a no-show? Did he have a conflict of interest also? Bender fessed up with her conflict, will the mayor?

Appalling Lack of Transparency in Local Government lately

I know what you are thinking, not any more than usual in South Dakota, which really doesn’t have that many laws protecting the citizen’s right to information, heck, and even if government is found doing something wrong our recourse with ethics law is non-existent.

So that best I CAN do is point out the latest assault on South Dakota Democracy and lack of transparency;


SB166 was ‘tabled’ after Sen. Corey Brown ‘claimed’ people were cursing at pages. I guess my question is “Why were they answering your phone anyway?” But the worst part about the situation was that several people showed up last Friday and sat through hours of pointless testimony so they could speak about the bill. But Senator Brown didn’t allow it, he felt there wouldn’t be an ‘intellectual’ conversation about it. Yeah, the two main opponents of the bill who showed up to testify were former state legislator and current Minnehaha County Treasurer Pam Nelson and Sioux Falls Petition Queen, Theresa Stehly. I have a feeling Brown feared an ‘intellectual’ conversation. (Bob Mercer wrote and interesting article about the I & R process: I&R History – Bob Mercer


I really think they strive at looking more ridiculous by the day. For years parents and teachers have tried to work with administration and school board members on a school start date and have been IGNORED. Now all of sudden after thousands of signatures have been collected and the measure being put on the ballot, the school board wants to ‘compromise’.

This isn’t the first time the school board has pulled this (sick leave graduation, pledge of allegiance and substitute teacher pay come to mind).

You look foolish, childish, hypocritical, out of touch and quite ignorant. Morrison’s comment today in the Argus Leader says it all when he exclaims, “It isn’t transparent enough, apparently.” You think? DUUUUUHHHHHG?!

Let voters decide in April because after wasting 5 years of their time trying to work with your body they have decided it is easier to collect 6,000 signatures and have an election.


After 29 applicants come forward to apply for the empty commission seat to be appointed, the county administrators (non-elected) picked the five finalists (for the commission) and shred the applications. Then the county commission picks (in private) the appointee and votes for them in a poorly publicized public meeting where no questions from the public were asked. It was the worst display of closed government I have seen with the county in years. If I was Commissioner Bender I would be embarrassed of how I was chosen.


I know, where to begin on this one? So I will narrow down to three;

-We have no idea what is going on with the EC siding. Who will pay to fix it? Will it get fixed? Nothing. In fact every time they do release a little information about the project, they go back on the promises made.

-Ambulance service provider contract. This has been handled so poorly I think the whole process should be scrapped and start from the beginning. If you have a little free time before the meeting tonight to approve the contract I suggest googling some names involved with the selection committee, Paramedics Plus, Fitch, etc. etc. It is so insidious you would think we chose a Hueterrite colony to run our ambulance service.

-The indoor swimming pool cost overruns. Besides being lied to over and over again about the project, starting before the election, there are a ton of unsolved mysteries here. Has the VA given the city an MOU about using the park for indoor aquatics? How do we plan to pay the levee bonds back in a few years since we are using the Federal repayment for the ‘cash’? If I was a city councilor I would vote against the cost overrun based solely on the lack of transparency. Why vote for a budget that you have been lied to about?

As a citizen and a blogger I will continue to watch my local government, but with them all misbehaving, it is getting harder every day to keep up with the secrets and rumors.

UPDATE: If you were following the live tweets from Huether’s YPN luncheon today, he makes some interesting statements about people who question the transparency of the city (click to enlarge) he also talks about the Super Walmart that WILL be built on the Southside of town.


Darrin Smith gets Tifilicious at the County Commission meeting

YouTube Preview Image

(starts at 20:30)

Funny how the commission gets to see this presentation before the council – or at least I can’t recall the council getting the presentation yet?

Darrin explains TIFs before the new TIF presentation. While he is correct that TIFs don’t cost taxpayers up front (even though we are footing the bill to administer them) we are losing property tax revenue for several years. Basically the developers are paying themselves property taxes and using the money to pay for the development.

MC Election Review Committee Videos

This is from the last meeting January 16.

The first is a demonstration of the tabulation machines, the second is the meeting.

Should Bloggers be allowed to be included in Press Releases?

While we are talking County bizzo, I was told the other day that assistant Minnehaha county administrator, Robert Wilson told the chair of the election commission that he didn’t want bloggers on the email press release list. His reasoning was we ‘have a point of view’. Damn right we do, and you are going to hear that view right now.

The chair submitted the email contacts of three important blogs in the state, South DaCola, Madville Times and Dakota War College (well at least two of them are important :)

I found this odd, because we are all different, and as we would all attest, we are on several press release email lists (I often get chastised when I don’t post something from these peeps). They range from ag, art, party politics, candidates, medical, homelessness and several other non-profits and government entities.

We are not monsters in the closet. But after the appointment of Jean Bender today, I’m finding out more and more that the county likes to operate from the view of information lockdown.

Speaking of that, I guess at the election review meeting today the new machines locked up on the ES & S techs as they were bragging about how great of machines they were.


Image: John Hult, Argus Leader Twitter feed

Priceless. Nothing better then a car salesman telling you how great a car is and it won’t start.

There was also a diatribe from (an elected official) defending Bob Litz because he doesn’t have enough cold storage space (Hey, Bob’s house is big enough to store his beer, free weights and deer jerky).

During the meeting, Pearson didn’t hold back. She says the commissioners aren’t providing adequate amount of space needed to work on election day. Pearson says they need enough space to keep the ballots secure. Ballots need to be in a temperature controlled room, otherwise moisture can effect whether the counting machines will read them.

As commissioner Kelly recommended from the beginning, there should not have been any other elected officials on this commission, and in my opinion, public employees. They are only going to defend instead of fairly review. I recommend the rest of the commission purge these members now and reappoint.

New County Commissioner may have conflict of interest


It may be legal for the newly appointed Minnehaha county commissioner Jean Bender to serve as commissioner, but I was disappointed that the public didn’t have an opportunity to question her on how she will handle votes when it relates to her husband Michael’s business, Bender Realty.

While I think as an attorney, Bender will bring a lot to the commission, she has incredible credentials, but I worry that big development in this county has just squeezed their way into the commission.

And as I have stated before I found the process to be extremely non-transparent;

• The 29 applicants were kept secret besides the 5 finalists.

• In the above meeting they admitted that ‘commission staff’ chose the 5 finalists and not the commission.

• The commission interviewed the finalists in private and when they finally decided to appoint someone they called a special Friday meeting and didn’t allow the public to voice their opinion on the finalists or ask questions.

A gigantic thumbs down to the Minnehaha County Commission today for a very ‘secretive’ process in picking our new commissioner.

Either way, I wish Jean Bender luck.

Dennis Olson for Minnehaha County Commission


Dennis Olson. Sometimes people without ‘connections’ do the best job.

Usually the day you get a rejection letter (see below) that you didn’t make the final cut, you don’t go endorsing other people. But the heck with it, I am in a giving mood.

The County Commission picked their ‘finalists’ today;

Five finalists have been named to replace John Pekas on the Minnehaha County Commission. Pekas resigned his seat after being elected a circuit court judge in November.

The finalists include:

  • Former Brandon Valley school board member Jean Bender.
  • Sioux Falls radio host and former mayor of the city of Sioux Falls, Rick Knobe.
  • Former Brandon city administrator, Dennis Olson.
  • Sioux Falls health care executive John Paulson.
  • Former Minnehaha County Commissioner Carol Twedt.

The remaining commissioners and the county auditor will appoint the new commissioner. They will make their selection no later than January 20th.

After eliminating the obvious (A former mayor and radio DJ, a former commissioner, that would only be a seat warmer for the next two years, a Sanford Health Executive, WTF?! and a prominent attorney in town married to big time commercial realtor, Michael Bender) I decided it came down to only one choice. A former city administrator (worked for Brandon since 1988) Dennis Olson.

If any of the others get in, big money, big real estate, big healthcare and big mouths have just penetrated another hole into our county commission.

ALSO, I hope the CC releases the names of the other applicants before they select the new one. If anyone reading this today got this same letter, please email me at (fb.art@sio.midco.net) or comment. I would love to compile the list.

Click to enlarge below letter


Commissioner Dick Kelly votes against re-electing chair

If you watch the meeting from this morning (FF: 10:40) you will see why Kelly votes against re-electing Cindy Heiberger for chair. He felt it should go to a new person, then reminds the commissioners that Cindy voted against him two years ago. Not sure what that was all about, but Barth made light of the situation and said that while he felt he should be elected as chair, he would support Cindy. She was re-elected on a 3-1 vote and Beninga was elected co-chair.

The commission also voted to not give themselves a raise this year, while Barth’s recommendation of a 1% raise failed.

They also closed the open commission seat application process and said they had 29 applicants to choose from. That’s a lot of paper to shred :)

Huether says government can be run like a business

I have often shaken my head when Huether suggests this. They are not the same, for several reasons.

To my surprise I found this page in a booklet I was reading from the SD Association of County Commissioners. The booklet is called ‘So You Want to Be A County Commissioner’.

I thought the one page was very concise in explaining the differences.

The middle part that I highlighted actually intrigued me the most. While they are referencing County Government, I think Municipal Government would apply. Notice ‘Sharing decisions’, ‘Public involvement’ and ‘Public Eye’.

Huether prefers to run the city like a business because he doesn’t like to share the ball with the city legislators, the council, or the general public. He acts as the CEO of the city instead of a fellow lawmaker.

I want to remind Mike, once again, that government and business ARE not alike.



Sioux Falls City Council DRAFT Provisional Legislative Priorities

A quick guide and review of this year’s city council ‘priorities’

1) That the Sioux Falls City Council, in conjunction with the South Dakota Municipal League, opposes any legislation which would inhibit municipalities from providing services requested by citizens in whatever form the citizens approve and opposes any legislation that restricts local control over taxation and spending.

Ah, nice wording Fiddle-Faddle. This is a ‘sticky’ one. What does it mean? Well since the days of councilor Quen Be De the city(s) have been trying to get permission from the state to raise our own sales taxes so they can build ‘things’. Of course, they always bring up that the voters will have to approve it and the tax will only be temporary (so when is the entertainment tax going away now that we have paid off the Pavilion?). I think it is wise that the state regulates this, it protects citizens in any community from municipalities to become ‘tax happy’. The city already ‘fees (taxes)’ the crap out of us. They continually raise property taxes, and every year, like clockwork, the city increases revenue. We don’t need any ‘special taxes’ what we need is a corporate income tax to pay for special projects. Corporations are always crying there needs to be more quality of life projects to attract ‘professional’ workers. Well then, pony up.

2) The Sioux Falls City Council supports legislation allowing municipalities alternative publication options.

This was a battle councilor Bob Litz begun, he thinks the Argus charges too much (and they do) and that public notices, etc. should be published in ‘other papers’ like the Shopping News. Even though the SN is only a weekly paper, it is FREE and is distributed to more homes then the Argus. Maybe it is time.

3) The Sioux Falls City Council opposes any legislation that would reduce, remove, repeal or reallocate the municipal sales tax, liquor tax reversion or any other municipal revenues to any other unit of government or that would expand the power to impose a sale or use tax to any other unit of government.

This is a blatant pissing match with the County Commission. When commissioner Jeff Barth suggested the county needed more of this tax income, I kinda balked. But now when I look at it, it makes sense. Barth’s proposal is simple; Alcohol related crimes are about 90%+ of related crimes in our county, why not use that tax to combat those crimes in our court system? Who funds the court system? The county. It’s one thing to quietly not support the county getting more of this tax base, it’s a whole other ball of wax calling on the legislature to oppose giving them more money. But doesn’t surprise me. Not that I’m not a local government nerdy enough, I started watching the County Commission meetings a few months back. They conduct business so much more professionally then the city council, and while they don’t always agree with each other and the public, they have sincere conversations about the people they govern. The best was when they were questioning the purchase of new vehicles when the old ones ran just fine. I thought I was looking at room full of Staggers. It was refreshing. The city could learn a lot from how these folks govern. ALOT!

4) The Sioux Falls City Council supports legislation extending owner occupied status to income based rental housing for property tax purposes.

5) The Sioux Falls City Council supports legislation to raise the threshold for requiring a performance bond to $50,000.

While I am a little murky on these two, I kind of understand them and support them. But maybe I am missing something? Help me out soldiers.

6) The Sioux Falls City Council strongly encourages the legislature to direct that any available water development funds be used to support completion of the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System in South Dakota.

7) The Sioux Falls City Council supports legislation appropriating funds from the general fund for the purpose of providing advance federal funds on a zero interest reimbursable basis for construction for Lewis & Clark Rural Water System facilities in South Dakota.

I have never been a fan of Lewis & Clark, and while the $80 million we have spent is already a done deal, I am suspect as to why SF should care when or if this project gets done? We already got snookered by these folks, why encourage more snookering? While it is true other communities NEED this project, Sioux Falls only uses our required amount (around 11% a day) and as told by Public Works director Mark Cotter that it is an ‘emergency backup’. I kind of wonder if the $80 million would have came from the feds instead–if more smaller communities would be hooked up instead of SF, which doesn’t really need it, especially in light of the great conservation numbers we have been having lately.

In conclusion, we had to hire a full-time council staffer to come up with these awesome seven priorities. I wonder how many consultants we had to hire to come up with the wooden dog fence at the council podium and the self-locking security doors at Carnegie?

Water, uh, I mean, money under the bridge.